Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month
It isn't about being confident in a bikini, it's about addressing the shame, embarrassment and lack of knowledge that women routinely experience when something goes wrong inside their pelvis (ovaries, womb, cervix, vagina) or between their legs (the vulva). This is body shaming of a different kind - internal, specific to women's reproductive health and genitals.
September is Gynae Cancer Awareness Month. We lead this campaign and the national conversation to get everyone talking about the five gynaecological cancers and their signs and symptoms. This means a lot of straight-talking. It means calling a vagina a vagina - and knowing what the difference is between a vulva (no, it's not a car) and a vagina.
For many women, receiving the all clear is far from the end of their journey. There is the emotional and psychological impact a cancer diagnosis and treatment can have; many women experience physical side effects of treatment which may affect them long after their treatment has finished
It was when my periods went from heavy and achy to irregular, with post coital bleeding and pain, that I began to feel more anxious and consequently booked to see a gynaecologist. Shockingly, despite all these symptoms, I was not offered a cervical smear on the NHS.
The reason why this is so important is that if women don't know their vulva from their vagina, and don't know what's normal for them and what's not when it comes to their gynae health, then how can we expect them to know when a potentially common symptom might indicate a gynaecological cancer?
The Vaginalogue is a women's health project, created and curated by and for all women. A blog for any woman who's ever been mystified by her beautiful flesh palace because, a lot of weird stuff goes down when you're growing up, giving birth, undergoing surgery or merely existing. Stuff that can be scary when you think you're on your own.
If it means that even one woman swerves the evil HPV, or goes for a smear test who may not otherwise have bothered, then it's worth the embarrassment of sharing such personal details with you all. I may have missed out on being a mother, but thanks to the screening I'm lucky enough to be alive to tell the tale.
Not having those conversations can cost lives. So what's stopping us on this one? The dictionary definition of vagina is very straightforward: 'the part of a woman's body that connects her outer sex organs to her womb'. It's an anatomical term, and should be used without shame.